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FCC’s $68M for Schools and Libraries, NTIA’s $3.5M for Tribes, Broadband Breakfast on CBS

Jun 14, 2023

The ECF funds will go to 184 schools and 13 libraries serving over 100,000 students.




WASHINGTON, August 28, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission announced on Aug. 23 that it will be disbursing a new round of over $68 million through its Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.

The money will go to 184 schools, 13 libraries, and two consortia – groups of schools and libraries that apply for funds together – across seven states serving over 100,000 students. It will be used to provide devices and internet connections to support nightly homework assignments and online summer programs.

The fund was opened to applicants as part of the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, with $7.17 billion set aside to close the “homework gap,” a lack of internet access and devices preventing low-income students from doing assignments and accessing learning materials outside of school.

“A good night’s sleep, a hearty breakfast, and access to digital tools are essential for a good day at school,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in the commission’s announcement.

This latest announcement puts the total committed ECF funds at $6.93 billion.

In May, the FCC granted in part a request to extend implementation deadlines for ECF funds. First and second round applicants who received funding commitments for recurring services like temporary hotspots after July 1, 2022 will now have 14 months from the date of approval to use their funds. Those who received funding for equipment after January 1, 2023 will have 180 days to use theirs.

The extensions are designed to give more time to applicants who would have had difficulty meeting the default deadline for all services of June 30, 2023.

All third window applicants will have until June 30, 2024 to allocate their awards.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced on Aug. 24 that it was awarded an additional $3.45 million through its Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program.

The money will go to seven tribes across five states. About $3 million will be used for deploying infrastructure like towers and fiber. The rest will go to engineering and regulatory planning for a future project aimed at bringing broadband access to unserved Tribal lands in Oregon.

The program, part of both the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, has now awarded over $1.79 billion of its $3 billion.

“We are happy to receive this award and it will go a long way towards providing high-speed internet to our Tribal members,” said Jenelle Roybal, governor of the Pueblo of Pojoaque. “Reliable, high-speed internet is no longer a wishlist item for them. It has become a staple utility along with electricity and water.”

All Tribes were awarded ‘equitable distribution grants,’ smaller grants up to $500,000 instead of the full amount they requested. The Government Accountability Office has pushed the NTIA to provide feedback to applicants who received these grants to help them improve future funding requests.

Applications for the program’s latest round of funding will be open until January 2024. The agency says it plans to prioritize applicants who did not receive an award in the first round of funding and whose projects are cost-effective.

Broadband Breakfast CEO Drew Clark appeared Thursday in an expert interview on CBS Streaming.

CBS News anchor John Dickerson spoke to Clark about the impact of broadband access in rural communities and the $667 million that the Biden administration committed on Aug. 21 to network expansion projects through its ReConnect Program.

“Lots of rural America is realizing that if they don’t get that kind of high speed connectivity, they’re going to be left out of the 21st century economy,” Clark said.

The ReConnect Program funds will be distributed across 37 projects in 22 states and the Marshall Islands. About $493 million will be in the form of grants and the remaining $174 million will be loaned.

The program, additional funded for which was provided by the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, has awarded more $3 billion to rural broadband projects and plans to allocate another $260 million in the coming months. Clark also addressed the IIJA’s $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program.

The minimum requirement for the ReConnect program projects is 100 Mbps symmetrical, according to White House officials. This ensures projects will be able to handle increased demand in the future. BEAD, but contrast, is funding deployments to address the “unserved” who lack broadband at 25 * 3 Mbps, and the “underserved” who lack broadband at 100 * 20 Mbps.

“Unfortunately, it isn’t a quick or instant process,” Clark said, adding it will take a few years “to get these kinds of robust connections to everywhere in the country.”

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Stockholders claim AT&T and Verizon failed to disclose harmful effects of lead-clad cables.




August 24, 2023 — AT&T announced the launch of its new fixed wireless home internet service, called Internet Air, in 16 new markets across the United States on Tuesday.

The technology will use “available network capacity in areas that are less densely populated while still providing a strong connection,” said president of broadband and connectivity initiatives Erin Scarborough.

The product emphasizes the Wi-Fi aspect of the device and is touted for its easy and fast installation.

Markets that will get the service first include cities in California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada, Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, Connecticut, Minnesota, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Florida.

AT&T executives said in a second-quarter earnings call in July that adding fixed wireless technology will be key to connecting hard-to-reach areas of the country. They estimated that fixed wireless services will be in demand following the allocation of Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment funds despite the program’s preference for fiber builds.

CEO John Stankey said that AT&T’s fixed wireless offerings will be a competitive offer in broadband builds for decades to come.

In February, however, AT&T’s chief financial officer said the company doesn’t see fixed wireless as a great long-term solution and is focusing on deploying fiber.

“Fixed wireless in certain cases is kind of nice, it’s a nice catch product where we have a copper customer that we’re going to get to in the next 12 to 24 months,” said Pascal Desroches during Deutsche Bank’s annual media, internet and telecom conference.

“But long term, it’s not a solution we want to put a lot of resources behind. Why? It’s because it’s not a great product and the customer ultimately is going to reject it,” he said.

Lawsuits filed in Pennsylvania federal court on behalf of shareholders allege that Verizon and AT&T misled the public about the environmental and health risks of lead-clad cables.

In July, a Wall Street Journal report alleged that lead-clad telecom cables in Lake Tahoe and elsewhere raise a significant health concern. In response, AT&T claimed that the cables “pose no danger to those who work and play in the waters of Lake Tahoe” and halted removal of the cables, which it began in 2021 “simply to avoid the expense of litigation.”

Verizon was similarly under fire when it was revealed that the two companies own over 2,000 such cables across the country, which would have been installed many years ago.

Now, the companies are facing litigation from shareholders who claim that Verizon and AT&T failed to disclose that they own cables around the country that are highly toxic and which harm employees and residents alike, and that it was warned about the risks but did not disclose the threat.

“As a result, defendants’ statements about its business, operation, and prospects were materially false and misleading and/or lacked a reasonable basis at all relevant time,” read the allegation against Verizon. It notified shareholders to register in the class action by October 2.

AT&T’s stocks reached the lowest level in 30 years by 7 percent and Verizon down by two percent, TD Cowen reported. The company reassured investors in an earnings call in July that it will work with the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the potential harm that lead-clad cables present to communities and employees.

Verizon likewise told investors that it is conducting its own internal and third-party investigation into the thousands of lead-sheathed cables. It said it will take these concerns seriously and will take a “fact and science-based approach” in the assessment of the danger the cables pose.

South Dakota’s Governor’s Office of Economic Development announced that it will award as much as $27 million to support rural high-speed internet in its final round of funding through the ConnectSD program.

“We are revitalizing small towns in America with this investment. And we are preserving our way of life,” Governor Kristi Noem said at the South Dakota Telecommunications Association Conference this week. “My vision is to bring high-speed internet to every home and business in South Dakota. No one should have to choose between the modern economy and a life in their hometown. It’s time to finish the job.”

According to Noem, the ConnectSD program has already connected tens of thousands of households and businesses to high-speed broadband with a total of $269.5 million invested since she took office in 2019. The office has awarded 104 grants that are in the process of connecting almost 31,000 locations.

Of the money invested, 57.9 million is state funds, $89.6 million is federal funds and $122.3 million is private funds. Grant applications will be available soon for this last round of funding.

“South Dakotans should never be left behind because of the small-town way of life they’ve chosen to build for themselves and for their families,” said GOED Commissioner Chris Schilken. “More and more South Dakotans are reaping the benefits of expanded opportunities in education, entertainment, and commerce.”

This is the state’s eighth round of funding in broadband grants since 2019. In May, ConnectSD awarded nine service providers a total of $32.5 million. The three biggest awardees were Venture Vision at $8.6 million, Golden West with $7 million and Alliance Communications Cooperative at $5.1 million.

Ubiquity’s open access networks launched in Carlsbad, California and Mesa, Arizona.




August 23, 2023 – Communications company Ubiquity announced Wednesday the launch of open-access fiber networks across cities in California and Arizona, as well as new footprints in Nebraska and Iowa.

The launch of the new networks will run through Carlsbad, California and Mesa Arizona, and the new footprints will reach Omaha, Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa. The open-access model allows multiple internet service providers and entities to use the network to compete on and provide service.

In Mesa, the company said it will be using a combination of active and dark fiber – that is, fiber that isn’t yet active – to serve residents and businesses. The company said it will drive the last mile to customers on the active route, while tenants on the dark fiber will use Ubiquity’s infrastructure to bring their own equipment to drive the last mile.

“This level of deployment diversification highlights the power of fiber and the uniqueness of Ubiquity networks,” the company said in the release.

“Ubiquity is committed to bringing high capacity, sustainable digital infrastructure to the last mile,” the company’s co-CEO Jamie Earp said in the release.

“That mission is critically important to the rise of Smart Cities and delivering the benefits and services that these networks facilitate.”

Ubiquity partners with ISPs, wireless carriers, utilities, and municipalities to deliver connectivity in underserved communities.

Satellite company Hughes, a subsidiary of EchoStar, announced Tuesday it has signed a five-year contract to deliver low earth orbit satellite-based services to the U.S. Space Force, the space branch of the armed forces.

The $900-million contract will allow agencies to use the communications capacity of two constellations of satellites, including from EchoStar Lyra and OneWeb, which has a distribution deal with Hughes.

“As government and defense agencies explore the power and potential of LEO services in delivering capabilities to the warfighter faster and at lower cost, we’re proud to offer not one, but two compelling solutions,” Leslie Blaker-Glass, vice president of Hughes, said in a press release. “Our OneWeb offering – with our low-power, light-weight, flat panel antenna – and our next-generation EchoStar Lyra S-band IoT system position us to deliver customers in the DoD and federal government robust and resilient low-latency connectivity at a competitive price.”

LEO satellites fly closer to the earth’s surface than traditional satellites, allowing for faster communications. It is also used to deliver connectivity to areas of the country that are economically difficult to connect.

“These important LEO capabilities will give the DoD cost-effective solutions and added reliability and resiliency in satellite communications across all domains and we look forward to addressing upcoming requirements for procurement of these services,” Rick Lober, Hughes’s vice president and general manager of Defense and Government Systems Division, said in the release.

Charter’s senior executive vice president is moving over to an advisory role, according to a Monday press release.

David Ellen, an industry veteran, will report in that new role to Charter’s president and CEO Chris Winfrey beginning on the first of December.

Ellen oversaw several businesses and corporate functions at Charter, including Spectrum Networks, human resources, communications, corporate physical security, community impact and legal oversight for programming, product and regulatory.

“David’s broad contributions have made a lasting impact on the Company,” said Winfrey in the release. “He was instrumental in the successful restructuring and repositioning of many of our corporate and business functions following the TWC and Bright House transactions. I am pleased David will continue to support me and Charter in an advisory role and wish him well as he pursues his outside endeavors.”

Ellen joined the company in 2016 from Cablevision, where he was executive vice president and general counsel until the company was purchased by Altice. The Harvard Law grad had previously been in general counsel positions at internet companies IAC and Eureka Broadband.

He was previously a former special counsel to the Federal Communications Commission working on the implementation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Next fall, he will also begin an adjunct teaching position at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service.

Some are projecting that ACP funding will run out early next year.




August 22, 2023 – A coalition of 45 bipartisan members of Congress, including 29 Democrats and 16 Republicans, jointly signed a letter dated August 17 urging House and Senate leadership to prioritize the replenishment of funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program in the upcoming government appropriation bill.

Spearheaded by Representatives Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., the letter underscored the continuing significance of ACP subsidies, which provide low-income families with monthly internet discounts of $30 and $75 and a one-time $100 discount on connected devices.

“One in five American households lack access to broadband,” read the letter. “Nearly 40 percent of eligible Americans rely on ACP to maintain internet access and that number is rapidly growing.”

The most recent data show that ACP has connected more than 20 million households out of the 48.6 million eligible. The signup number is expected to grow as the Federal Communications Commission, the agency tasked with administering the program’s funding, has just announced a new round of outreach grants as part of its effort to bring more people to ACP.

However, the influx of new applicants has also put pressure on the program’s remaining funding as the allocated $14 billion budget is expected by some to dry up in early 2024, creating “urgent need” for Congress to address the potential shortfall, read the letter.

“Connecting every American to high-speed, affordable broadband requires a public private partnership, and it is the federal government’s responsibility to provide secure and reliable investments,” it continued. “Failure to extend funding would not only leave millions of families without access to the internet but also hinder our long-term competitiveness as a nation.”

The letter adds its voice to a chorus of appeals for additional ACP funding that span beyond the telecom sector to include experts and lawmakers, all of whom share concerns that insufficient funding might obstruct the continued expansion of broadband access and perpetuate the digital divide.

The head of the FCC announced Monday the commission’s intent to renew the term of the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Task Force for the third time, as the current term is scheduled to expire in 2023.

Established under the 2018 Farm Bill, the task force works closely with the Department of Agriculture to offer recommendations for the FCC on the deployment of broadband services to optimize decision-making in agriculture production.

The task force’s effective term concludes every two years, unless the commission opts to renew it for subsequent terms until its scheduled termination in January 2025. And that’s exactly what the commission intends to do, it said.

“Today’s farmers and ranchers rely on high-speed internet to make the best use of connected tools to efficiently run their businesses and meet the demand for food to sustain our communities,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a press release. “I am calling on the Task Force to look closely at the link between connectivity and agricultural sustainability, to see how best to leverage innovation to improve food production for the future.”

The agency also urged representatives from diverse and historically underrepresented communities to submit applications for membership in the task force, due September 20, 2023.

Fiber internet service provider Great Plains Communications announced Tuesday its expansion into six additional counties in Indiana as part of its ongoing effort to connect unserved and underserved locations in the region.

Upon completion, residents will get access to symmetrical speeds of up to 1 Gigabit for both download and upload, while businesses will have access up to 100 Gigabit, read the press release. These services will be available in the communities of Aurora, Vevay, Bartholomew, Decatur, Franklin and Ripley.

“Our company is pleased to power the fiber-driven services that enable working and learning from home, advance healthcare and education, extend the reach and capabilities of businesses and empower growth opportunities in our Indiana footprint,” said Todd Foje, CEO of Great Plains Communications.

The company said it has obtained part of the financing through the Indiana’s Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program, a $1-billion statewide infrastructure program to bring high-quality broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved parts of Indiana.

The project marks the most recent expansion of the Nebraska-based company in Indiana, which has covered more than 600 underserved homes and businesses across the state.

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